GOLDEN -- An
Ohio company that produced beryllium planted articles in
medical journals saying the deadly metal was safe, a
Massachusetts expert testified Thursday.
Dr. David Steven Egilman said the false science
produced by employees of Brush Wellman Inc. was picked
up and included in technical manuals and even textbooks
used by many medical schools.
Egilman testified during the fourth day of a trial in
Jefferson County District Court in which 54 Rocky Flats
workers, former workers or their next of kin are seeking
damages from Brush Wellman for debilitating lung
diseases caused by breathing beryllium dust.
They claim the company knew beryllium is toxic, but
failed to inform customers, such as Rocky Flats. Some
parts of the nuclear weapons produced at Rocky Flats
were fashioned from beryllium.
Egilman cited a half-dozen publications, including
safety manuals and textbooks, written by Brush Wellman
employees as early as 1964.
Those materials support the federal standard for
beryllium in place at the time, which said that
beryllium dust was not hazardous in tiny quantities,
estimated at 2 micrograms per cubic meter. One article
claimed beryllium is safe even in concentrations 15
times the federal standard.
But Egilman, who has reviewed the company's own
documents, said Brush Wellman knew even as the articles
were being written that beryllium was dangerous in
concentrations below the federal standard.
"There is no safe level to prevent chronic beryllium
disease," Egilman said. "The safe exposure level is no
Brush Wellman attorney Sydney McDole fought Thursday
to keep Egilman's testimony out of the trial. She
challenged Egilman's qualifications as an expert, then
threw up numerous procedural roadblocks to the substance
of his testimony.
In the end, District Court Judge Frank Plaut allowed
the jury to hear most of what Egilman had to say.
McDole limited her questions of Egilman to the amount
of money the plaintiffs paid him to testify as an expert
witness. Because Plaut has issued a gag order, the
company's lawyers could not speak to the media after the
Thursday court session.
However, two plaintiffs who testified said Dow
Chemical Co., which ran Rocky Flats under a government
contract in the 1950s and 1960s, did little to train
workers to handle beryllium safely.